For archaeologist Amelia Peabody and her family, the allure of Egypt remains as powerful as ever, even in this tense time of World War. But nowhere in this desert land is safe -- especially for Amelia's son Ramses and his beautiful new wife Nefret. Treachery and peril are pursuing the two young lovers across the length and breadth of this strange, exotic world, strengthening a bond of passion and devotion that only death can sever. And the grim discovery of a recent corpse in a tomb where it does not belong is pulling Amelia deeper into a furious desert storm of intrigue, corruption, kidnapping, and murder -- and toward dark revelations that threaten to awaken the past...and alter the family's destiny.
Amelia Peabody Emerson is the Mary Poppins of Egypt. Forthright, intrepid, and industrious, she brooks no nonsense from anyone and is armed with an apparently magical parasol. As the legions of fans of Elizabeth Peters's Edwardian archeological mystery series know, Amelia is also possessed of a swift temper, an incorrigible curiosity, and an uncanny proclivity for attracting trouble. But in 1915, with the world gripped by the madness of war, trouble is endemic. In an effort to prevent their son Ramses from being coerced into working for British intelligence (in the sort of endeavor that nearly got him killed a year earlier when he infiltrated a band of Egyptian nationalists and prevented a Turkish-backed uprising), Amelia and husband Emerson and the rest of their dizzyingly large entourage flee England for the reassuringly stoic splendor of their beloved Egyptian ruins.
So much for a quiet dig among the mastabas. With their usual luck, the family promptly finds itself inundated by would-be assassins and nosy journalists. Amelia quickly deduces that Ramses's undercover work is at the root of both threat and curiosity; more puzzling is the appearance of the odd corpse or two and a rash of stunningly efficient tomb robberies. When Ramses and his wife, Nefret, travel to Luxor to check on the security of some of their old excavations, they find an all-too-familiar irritant behind the robberies. It would be telling to reveal his identity, but fans of the series will soon figure it out, with the aid of a little suspension of disbelief. With Ramses and Nefret on one hand, and Amelia and Emerson on the other, engaged in "protecting" the other side from conflict and trouble, the novel unfolds in a merry chase of misdirection and miscommunication.
There is a comforting consistency to Peters's series. By now, all of the characters' quirks are etched in stone like so many well-worn hieroglyphs. Amelia's narrative has the familiarity of a treasured and oft-read letter from a slightly batty aunt. Even the miraculous return of (no, I really can't say), though perhaps intended as a radical plot twist, adheres to the most genteel of mystery traditions, à la Doyle and Christie. Innovation can be overrated; with Peters's flawless record of producing amusing, easily digested novels showing no signs of faltering, fans should devour this morsel--and wait impatiently for the next tasty installment. --Kelly Flynn